Robbers on High Street
First Appeared in The Music Box, July 2007, Volume 14, #7
Written by John Metzger
Thu July 12, 2007, 06:00 AM CDT
Robbers on High Street had the misfortune of being born within the hustle and bustle of New York City’s recent rock ’n‘ roll resurgence. Consequently, the band has had to fight to be heard above the roar of the crowd. Its sophomore effort Grand Animals is designed specifically to break the group free from the pack. For a moment, it seems as if it actually might succeed in accomplishing this feat. Just as The Walkmen reinvented itself between Bows + Arrows and A Hundred Miles Off by looking further back in time for a new slate of influences, so, too, does Robbers on High Street cast off its previous, post-Strokes appropriations to get to the root of its roots.
Initially, Grand Animals feels like a bold departure, but in truth, all of its elements — from the Beatle-esque collage that filters through Kick ’Em in the Shins to the multitude of horns and saxes that adorn Across Your Knee, Guard at Your Heel, and You Don’t Stand a Chance — were present on Robbers on High Street’s debut EP Fine Lines. The difference, then, comes in how these components are assembled. Whether it’s dabbling in rock, soul, or something in between, Robbers on High Street spends the bulk of Grand Animals intertwining the legacies of Marc Bolan and Ray Davies. Even when it tries to broaden its sound — Nasty Numbers, for example, borrows from Squeeze, while Kick ’Em in the Shins is constructed from bits of War’s Low Rider — the familiar influence of Davies and Bolan is never far from view.
Beneath the surface of Grand Animals, Robbers on High Street concocts some intriguing storylines. Tales of a bicycle accident (The Ramp) and of young love gone awry (Married Young) are injected with dark humor, and they’re dispensed so effortlessly that they lend credence to the idea that the group is on the verge of doing something big. Grand Animals, however, isn’t it. Although there’s no faulting the band’s ambitions, Robbers on High Street still is defined entirely by its record collection.
Grand Animals is available from Barnes & Noble.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2007 The Music Box